Category Archives: History

The House of Wisdom

Dear lovers of knowledge,

                A few days back when I was researching for my next book( “Pilgrims of Episteme”, expected in 2013) I came across some very interesting information. I will share that with you in this VERITAS.

                As you are aware, the Greeks had a great tradition of science, mathematics and philosophy. People like Socrates, Aristotle, Euclid, Plato etc – there is a long list of Greek greats in these fields. In the second century BC after the Punic and Macedonian wars, the Greek city states declined and the Romans became the dominant power in the Mediterranean.  The Romans were very powerful in terms of military and had a great political system. However they were weak in Science, Arts, Philosophy etc. So they admired the Greeks for these things. On the other hand the Greeks considered themselves much superior in terms of culture and knowledge but they feared the military might of the Romans.

                After the Punic wars Greek culture became very popular amongst the Romans. They learnt the Greek language, copied their architecture, even identified their gods with the Greek gods. The good thing that the romans did was to preserve the Greek culture, language, philosophy and science. The Romans did not add anything to Greek thought but did their best to preserve it. So Greek science and philosophy continued to progress under Roman rule.

                In the 4th and 5th century AD the Roman empire declined. Also there was a lot of conflict between the new Christian religion and the older pagan religion. This resulted in the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria in 391 AD( See VERITAS: Loss of a Great Library, 27 July 2000, Rome was attacked and looted several times by Gothic tribes between 409 and 476 AD. One of the tribes, the Vandals were extremely ruthless and destroyed just about everything. The word vandalism is derived from this tribe. In 476 AD the emperor of Rome abdicated and the Roman empire finished. Europe descended into the dark ages. The knowledge of Greek was lost, the Pope acquired great powers and the tradition of science and questioning came to an end.

                The eastern part of the Roman empire became the Byzantine empire and it is here that the Greek language and culture continued to flourish to some degree. However the Byzantines could not add much to the great works of the Greek.

                So the Romans and The Byzantines cannot be considered the real inheritors of Greek science and mathematics.  To find the real succesors of the great Greeks we will have to look elsewhere- a different time and a different place.

                Lets now talk about Baghdad in the 8th century AD.  At that time the Abbasid Caliphate was in power. The Abbasid Caliphs had come to power in 750 AD and in 762 AD shifted their capital to a new city: Baghdad. The Abbasids were influenced by the Hadith( sayings by Prophet Mohammed) such as “The Ink of the Scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr” and “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” and they started making Baghdad a centre of learning and knowledge. The third Caliph of the Abbasid Calipate, Harun al-Rashid formed Bayt Ul-Hikma or “The House of Wisdom”.  Harun al-Rashid was a great patron of science, music and art. We all know him from the book “A Thousand  and one Nights” also known as “Arabian Nights”.  Many stories in this book involve Harun al-Rashid and his vizier, Jafar.

  The House of Wisdom became the centre of what is known as the Translation movement. The Abbasids had formed a library at the House of Wisdom and they were obsessed with getting every book in the world translated into Arabic and kept in the library. First the Persian texts were translated. Then the focus shifted to Greek texts. Harun al-Rashid’s son, Al-Mamun who ruled from 813 to 833 took the House of Wisdom to great heights. Al-Mamun was hugely influenced by Greek thought. It is said that when he was a young man he once dreamt of Aristole. In the dream Aristotle came to him and spoke about philosophy and politics. Under Al-Mamun’s rule, the works of Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Eulid, Archimedes – every great Greek philosopher, mathematician, physician were translated into Arabic.

                Now the translation of works of Philosophy, Science, Mathematics and medicine is not an easy task. The translator has to be knowledgeable about these subjects to  be able to translate them well. Al-Mamun was not just a collector of books, he was also a collector of the best minds. So everyday, translators, scribes, scientists, mathematicians, physicians met at the House of Wisdom to translate works by the great Greeks. The House of Wisdom became so famous that scholars from around the world came to join it.

                Now what happens when scholars get together under one roof? New ideas, new thoughts emerge. So what started as a Translation Movement soon became a thriving place where original work was carried out in science, mathematics and other subjects.  The scholars at the House of Wisdom extended the works of the great Greeks and took science and mathematics forward.

                Another thing that happened at the House of Wisdom was that texts from India and China were also translated. The scholars were able to combine the works from the east and the west to make great leaps in knowledge. Let me take an example: the Greeks and Romans could not multiply the way we can. Yes, Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Archimedes etc could not multiply as easily as a school kid can in today’s age. They used to add repeatedly. Why? Because they did not have a decimal system: Imagine trying to multiply XCVIII with DCCVII! Now lets convert it to another notation: 98 X 707. Now it becomes so simple. Why? Because the decimal system gives each place a value- it is a positional system. A positional system requires the number 0. The Arab scholars got this system from India and were quick to realize how superior it was over the Greek-Roman system. Al-Khwarizimi wrote “On the calculation with Hindu numerals” in 825 AD. Al-Kindi wrote a 4 volume subject on the same subject in 830 AD.  

                Now that was one example. The House of Wisdom was the centre of world science and mathematics at that time. Let me give you a few more examples: The word Algorithm comes from Al-Khwarizimi who as we saw earlier wrote the book on Indian number system. Al-Khwarizimi described a step by step way of solving algebraic equations- we call it Algorithm these days. Talking about algebra- the word algebra comes from Al-Khwarizimi ‘s book Kitab Al-jebr. The words Alchemy, Chemistry, Almanac, Amber, Alcohol, Alkali, Azimuth come to us from Arabic and are all associated with some major contributions towards science or mathematics by the scholars at the House of Wisdom.

                The works of many greek philosophers and scientists would have been unknown to us if they were not carefully translated and preserved by the scholars at the House of Wisdom. Lets take the case of Galen, the great Greek man of medicine. The 3 million words that he wrote are available to us only because the Arabs translated them and kept them so carefully. Mohammed al-Razi was known as the “Galen of the Arabs”. He used Galen’s works as a basis and then  wrote a 23 volume text on medicine. He formed a fuction between Persian, Greek and Indian systems of medicine.

  The Islamic Golden Age of Science lasted from 750 Ad to 1258 AD- 5 centuries of scientific progress by the greatest minds of the day based on the great works of Greeks, Indians and Chinese. But then, as it typically happens, lust for power destroys love for knowledge. Baghdad was conquered in the year 1258 by the Mongols led by Hulgau Khan who was the grandson of Genghiz Khan. The House of Wisdom was destroyed. The Mongols took the books from the House of Wisdom and threw them into the Tigris to form a bridge on the river so that they could cross it!

                Friends, from 476 AD to the 14th century, Europe was in dark ages. It was a place of orthodox religion, superstition and ignorance. The centre of science, philosophy, culture and mathamatics was in Baghdad, in the House of Wisdom. When Renaissance began in Italy in the 14th century, it was based on what the Arabs had preserved. The House of Wisdom prepared Europe for Renaissance. Without the House of Wisdom, Renaissance would not have happened, or would have been delayed by several centuries.

                In the end I will leave you with a thought by Al-Kindi, a mathematician and a scholar from the House of Wisdom: “We ought not to be embarrassed of appreciating the truth and of obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nations different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself.”


 Like you, a lover of Knowledge




Go wondrous creature, mount where science guides

go measure earth, weigh air, state the tides,

instruct the planets in what orbs to run

correct old time, regulate the sun



Read my latest book, “Shadows of Lost Time”.

Extinction Events


                On 28th Nov 2011, I posted a VERITAS: Nemesis and Tyche – The myth and the hypothesis. In that VERITAS article I wrote about the theory that mass extinctions on earth occur approximately every 26 million years or so. In that article I also told you about the theories that scientists have proposed to try and explain these periodic extinction events. I told you about Nemesis and Tyche and how these disturb the OOrt cloud to cause these extinction events every 26 million years or so. You can read that article at:

                Angela Singh pointed out that the last extinction event happened 65 million years ago- the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. She asked how the 26 million year extinction period could still hold. I promised her that I would write a VERITAS to explain this. Therefore I am writing this.

                First, the periodic extinction event theory is a theory. J John Sepkoshki and David Raup, both paleontologists at the University of Chicago proposed this theory by analyzing fossil records of over 36,000 animal species from the last 600 million years. But remember, in science all knowledge is considered tentative. A better theory or new facts can always overturn a previously “accepted” theory. Einstein’s relativity replaced Newton’s theories. And some other facts may later replace Mr Einstein’s ideas. In short, the periodic extinction event theory is just another scientific theory which has certain merits but in no way anything more than any other scientific theory. Another problem is that such theories cannot be tested – one cannot create another earth complete with species. Also the timeline of the theory( 26 million years ) is so huge that it is not easily verifiable.

                Now, let’s come to the theory itself. Sepkoshki and Raup showed that the dinosaur extinction event ( 65 million years ago) was not the last extinction event. There were two after that: about 15 million years ago and about  33 million years ago. Lets now study the last the last two extinction events in a bit more detail. But first we need to understand as to what really is meant by an extinction event.

                An extinction event is a drastic reduction in the diversity and abundance of life forms on earth. Not all extinction events are of the same magnitude and same length in terms of time. Some extinction events are classified as major and others as lesser. The last major extinction event was 65 million years ago. It is commonly known as the K-T extinction event. The K stands for the German word Kreidezeit for Cretaceous. The T stands for Tertiary. It is also known as Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. It was a rapid extinction event- some scientists suggest that it lasted about 10 years. Some suggest a longer time frame of a few thousand. It may have been caused by an asteroid impact. This extinction event resulted in the extinction of 75% earth species in a relatively short period of time. The dinosaurs were wiped out and a new age of mammals began on earth.

                Before we go further lets understand what Cretaceous and Tertiary mean. Geologists do not like to talk in terms of years. Earth is 4.5 billion years old and talking in terms of years will make it very complicated. So the geologists have invented a geological timescale. They have divided the history of the earth into Supereons  composed of Eons which are divided into Eras. Eras are divided into Periods, Epochs and Ages. When we talk about Jurassic park we should know that Jurassic is the name of a Period which lasted from 199 Million years ago to about 145 million years ago. Similarly Cretaceous was a Period which ended 65 million years ago with the last major extinction event. What geaological time are we living in now? We are in Holocene Epoch of Quaternary period of Cenozoic era of Phanerozoic Eon. Phew, these names are complex!

                Now, let’s talk about the last two extinction events. The one that happened 33 million years ago was the Eocene-Oligocene event. Eocene and Oligocene are names of Epochs. Cretaceous and Tertiary are names of Periods. A period may contain many Epochs. So the major extinction event changed the Period but the smaller extinction event that occurred 33 million years ago changed only the  Epoch. This was caused by climate changes and lasted much longer than the C-T extinction event. Most of the species affected were marine or aquatic.

                The extinction event that took place 15 million years ago is known as the Middle Miocene disruption. Again Miocene is a epoch. This was because of major cooling in the earth’s climate. This resulted in many species dying including some crocodiles and turtles.

                And now let’s talk about something that we humans have done. Scientists have suggested that another extinction event is currently in progress- they call it the Quaternary extinction. This started during the ice age in Pleistocene about 40,000 years ago. But it has continued to the present Era: Halocene. In fact we are within this extinction event. There are two reasons for this current extinction event: Climate changes and Humans. The ice age started by killing a lot of species. But the humans soon took over most of the killing wiping out a huge number of species of animals and plants. For example, on the island of Madagascar, we humans have resulted in the extinction of almost all native animals in the last 2000 years. It is similar in most other places.

                We have to be careful, the earth’s ecosystem is a delicate balance which we do not understand completely. If we change it, we don’t know what may happen and how it may impact us humans. We humans have been on the earth for a very short time- if we were to shrink the history of the earth to 24 hours, the history of the human kind would only be the last 1.5 seconds! We homo sapiens came only 1.5 seconds ago in the 24 hour earth clock! That is how little we know the earth!

                But finally to uplift your mood, here is a little poem by Ogden Nash:

At midnight in the museum hall

The fossils gathered for a ball

There were no drums or saxophones,

But just the clatter of their bones,

A rolling, rattling, carefree circus

Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.

Pterodactyls and brontosauruses

Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.

Amid the mastodontic wassail

I caught the eye of one small fossil.

“Cheer up, sad world,” he said, and winked—

“It’s kind of fun to be extinct.”






Go wondrous creature, mount where science guides

go measure earth, weigh air, state the tides,

instruct the planets in what orbs to run

correct old time, regulate the sun


Crossing the Rubicon, Gordian Knot and Laconic


Dear Friends,


                As a language grows it develops its own idioms, metaphors, proverbs and other figures of speech. These add to the richness and beauty of the language. Of course, these make it difficult for computer programs to translate the language to other languages.


                I have a special interest in the idioms, metaphors and proverbs of the languages that I know: English, Hindi and Punjabi. These figures of speech tell us a lot about the culture and history of the people who speak these languages. These figures of speech are sometimes humorous, sometimes philosophical, sometimes historical but always interesting.


                Today I will tell you the history of two English phrases: “Gordian Knot” and “Crossing the Rubicon”. The first is a metaphor and the second a idiom. But since we are talking about ancient history I could not resist adding one more to the list: laconic. But the interesting thing is that when we learn about these phrases we will encounter a few more almost by accident. J


                First let’s talk about the Gordian Knot. Phrygia was a kingdom in Asia minor from 1200 BC to 700 BC. In Phrygia there was a city named Gordium. The city was named after its founder Gordius. According to a legend, at one time sometime in 8th century BC Phrygia was without a king. An oracle in the capital city of Telmissus declared that the next person coming into the city on a ox-cart would be the future king. Gordius was a poor peasant who was passing by on an ox-cart. He went into the city and was immediately made the king. The city was renamed Gordium.


                Gordius’ son was Midas. And to thank the gods for making his father a king, he dedicated the ox-cart to the Phrygian gods. He tied the ox-cart to a post in the palace with a very complicated knot. This knot was known as the Gordion knot. And here we have accidently come to another English phrase: Midas touch. So this phrase is associated with King Midas of Gordium who tied the Gordion knot. All this happened in the 8th century BC.


                A prophesy came to be associated with the Gordian knot. It was said that anyone who opened/solved the Gordian knot would become the king of Asia. As times changed the fortunes of Phrygia also changed. In the 4th century BC it became a mere province in the mighty Persian empire. But the Gordian knot and its legend stayed. In 333 BC Alexander reached Gordium while battling the Persian Army. He went to the palace and looked at the knot. He was told about the knot and its legend. Now Alexander wanted to be the king of Asia  and the whole world. So he wanted to solve the Gordian knot. But mathematical puzzles did not interest Alexander. He went for the “direct” approach: he took out his sword and sliced the knot in one stroke thus opening it.  


                So the phrase Gordian knot refers to a extremely difficult/almost impossible problem which can only be solved by a direct, bold stroke of intuition, courage, creativity etc.


                Now we come to the word “laconic”. When we say that someone has a “Spartan lifestyle” we mean highly regulated and disciplined. “Spartan diet” means frugal. These phrases come from the ancient Greek state of Sparta. The people there led extremely regimented and disciplined lifestyles. The Spartan society and its rules/culture are extremely interesting and worth reading. But we cannot go into that. However I must mention that while the people of Athens spent their lives in arts, education and culture, Spartans did not have time for such “soft skills”. They concentrated on preparation for war and discipline of the body. Even in their speech they were, er …Spartan. So they chose their words carefully and did not bother too much about eloquence and literary beauty.


                Sparta was known by some other names also: Lacedaemon and Laconia. Alexander’s father, Philip wanted to conquer Sparta( Laconia). So he sent a message to the Spartan king: “ If I enter Laconia, I will burn your great city”. The answer from the Spartan king was a simple and terse , “If”. So the Spartans gave a laconic reply to Philip’s threat. So the word laconic means brief and terse.


                Now, let’s talk about “crossing the Rubicon”. But for that we will have to move from Ancient Greeks to the Ancient Romans. These Romans are crazy, tap, tap, tap as Asterix would say. The Rubicon is a small river about 80 kilometres long in north Italy. In the roman empire this used to be the natural boundary that separated the rest of Europe from Italy. The ancient romans had a law which forbade any Roman general from crossing the Rubicon to come to Italy with his army. The roman general had to cross the Rubicon without his army. The aim of the rule was to make sure that no general tries to do a coup and topple the Roman republic.


                Now, we all know that Caesar fought a lot of wars in Gaul between 58 to 51 BC. All of Gaul was captured( except the little village that we know so well J) and the Gaulish  chieftain Vercingetorix threw down his weapons at Caesar’s feet( a scene captured so humourously in a few Asterix comics)


                Rome was under the control of Pompey and Pompey knew that Caesar wanted control. So there was a lot of friction between the two. Caesar wanted to go back to Rome but did not want to go back without his army as was the rule. He knew that he may be killed by Pompey’s men. So Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army and triggered a civil war in Rome. This ultimately resulted in Pompey’s death and Caesar’s victory.


                So crossing the Rubicon refers to a decision which cannot be changed later or to cross a point of no return. Caesar knew that when he crossed the Rubicon  with his army that things would not be the same again and Rome would be pushed into political turmoil. So he was crossing a point of no return when he crossed the Rubicon. One more interesting phrase is associated with the incident. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon he said the words : “Alea iacta est” which translates to “the die has been cast”.


                Another interesting fact. After Caesar’s death in 44 BC his name was used by Octavian who called himself Augustus Caesar. So Caesar became a title. Later, the emperors of Byzantine Empire and Ottoman empire continued to use Caesar as their title. For example in 1453 AD after the conquest of Constantinople Ottoman sultan Mahmed started calling himself “Caesar of the Roman Empire”.


                The title Caesar was even used by the Germans. The word Kaiser is derived from Caesar. Even the Russian word Tsar/Czar is derived from Caesar! In India also there used to be a title “kaisar-e-hind” during the British rule- yes, derived from Caesar!


                The study of language can be very interesting if one tries to find the historical origins of words and phrases.






Go wondrous creature, mount where science guides

go measure earth, weigh air, state the tides,

instruct the planets in what orbs to run

correct old time, regulate the sun



Read my latest book, “Shadows of Lost Time”.

Musee du Louvre




        I was in Paris for a week on a business trip. I kept two days free as I wanted to see Paris: Eiffel tower was on the top of my list followed
by Louvre and Notre-dame. I had been to Paris as a kid with my parents and I remembered that I had loved the view from the top of of the Eiffel. But I remembered nothing of the Louvre.


        For many people in the world the Louvre has become famous because of Mona Lisa or because of the book “Da Vinci code”. And for most people in the world the Eiffel tower is the symbol of Paris. And even for me before this visit the Louvre was a ” big museum that has the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo”. But as soon as I entered the Louvre I was stunned by its magnificence and its size. It seemed like a HUGE giant that mocked me: “You consider yourself a student and a lover of all things beautiful. How could you think of yourself something like that without looking at the objects of beauty that I have collected for centuries. First see my collection, admire it and then make your claims!”. I felt so small and tiny before that enormous structure. I collected my ticket and entered the museum.

        The Louvre is a magnificient monument. Even if you do not enter the museum you will be moved by the size and beauty of the monument while standing in its courtyard. I stood it its courtyard before buying my tickets and immediately placed it far far above Eiffel Tower as my symbol
of Paris.

        And when I entered the building through the Richelieu wing I realized that I will not be able to “finish” the museum in the 7-8 hours
that I had decided to spend here. And let me tell you why- The Louvre has in its collection 350,000 works in total! Out of them only 35,000 are on
display.  So if you spend 1 minute per work of art you can see 60 works of art in a minute( that is in reality not possible. I could only manage
10-15 per minute). So if you visit the museum for 10 hours, you can only see 600 works of art in a day. So you need 58 days to just see the 35,000 works of art that are on display if you go at this incredible speed! And these 35,000 works of art are spread in an area of 60,000 square
metres of exibition space!

        The Louvre has not always been a museum. For eight centuries it was the palace of the kings of France. In the 12th century AD Philippe
Auguste built a fortified castle here. Two centuries later it was converted into a “palace as spruce and brilliant as an emerald” by Charles V. But when the hundred years war started this palace lost its importance and was converted into a prison and a place to keep military supplies. In 1564 a new palace was built about 600 metres from Louvre- Palais des Tuileries. These two palaces were to be connected along the side of the river Siene. This was followed by a period of neglect when the kings of France built another palace about 20 kilometres away from Paris, at Versailles. At this time the Louvre was invaded by artists and traders. In 1776 Comte d’Angiviller who was incharge of government buildings decided to convert a part of this palace to a museum- the academy of painting. The museum was delayed because of the French Revolution. But in 1793 it was finally inaugurated.

Richelieu Wing


       Napolean’s reign saw a huge amount of artistic activity in France. Napoleon was a great admirer of the arts( and also Science and Mathematics). Artists became very productive. Also Napoleon brought back a huge number of works of art from the lands that he conquered: a large part of Europe, Egypt, Middle East. Also works from French colonies were brought back and placed in the Louvre. The Museum started filling up and more and more  space was allocated for it within the Louvre. In 1981 the Ministry of Finance vacated the Louvre and the whole Louvre was dedicated to the works of Art and the whole Louvre was now a museum.

        The Louvre is divided into three wings: Richelieu, Sully and Denon. And each of these wings is divided into sections: Sculptures,
Oriental Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek-Roman Antiquities, Arts of Africa, Arts of Islam, History of Louvre, Paintings of France, Italian
Paintings etc etc. And there is a whole section that has kept the rooms of Napoleon III as they were in the 19th century- those rooms give
us an idea of how the Kings used to live.

Sully Wing


        I walked through the Louvre dazed and astonished, There were works of art and beauty all around me and I felt like an ignorant fool- I felt
completely unable to understand most of these objects or the expression of the artist that has given birth to these works. And as I walked fast I
could look only at a few works carefully- I had only 8 hours. I felt that each work of beauty is calling me to stop for a moment and understand it,
to feel it but I just ignored most of these beautiful objects. In my 8 hours I barely spent 10 minutes eating my lunch and during the rest of the
time I feverishly walked one room to another. But even then I could not see more that 200-300 works( and out of them about 50 in detail).

        Every painting has a huge amount of detail. And every painting has a history. It is not possible to admire these paintings without understanding the historical context and the style of the artist. So each painting is a book in itself. I could only see the Mona Lisa from a distance. There was a long queue in front of it. Either I could see the Mona Lisa or I could see 20 other works of art in that time- I preferred the latter.

Denon WIng


       Another section I loved was the Egyptian section- there was a statue that was almost 5000 years old! That statue was the first depiction
of the human form as a sculpture. The Oriental Antiquities section was also wonderful- I was really impressed by the “winged bull with a human
head” a statue that is more than 4 metres tall. After the Mona Lisa the most popular work is the Venus De Milo( or Aphrodite)- a statue that is
more than 2000 years old and was found in two pieces on the island of Melos- but the arms are still missing.

Winged Bull with a human head


       After 8 hours I had to leave. But I promised to return- and the next time I will spend at least a week just discovering and surrounded by
the  beauty of this Museum. The Louvre like all things of great beauty has left me feeling so thirsty for another glimpse and like all things of
great beauty, I know She will haunt me forever.

        When Keats looked at an ancient Grecian urn in a friend’s house he wrote a very beautiful poem: Ode to a Grecian Urn. This poem
admires the beauty and the context in which the object of art was created. Here is a excerpt from that poem. I think this poem applies
to all the 350,000 works of art that are stored in the Louvre:

        O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
          Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
        With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
        As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
            When old age shall this generation waste,
            Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
       Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
          “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all
            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

( For more information on the Louvre see
  The poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” was posted some time back in the MHFL list. E-mail me if you want the complete poem and its interpretation)



  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 
  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 
  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          
  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             




 I was in Israel for a week on a business trip. For me it was a wonderful cultural and intellectual experience. The most interesting part of my trip
was the one day that I spent in Jerusalem. That one day showed me so much history and made me think so much about religion and culture that I was overwhelmend by the whole experience. I want to share some of the things that I learnt with you through VERITAS.

        Jeresulum is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Let’s first understand why it is so important for these three religions. This will
help us understand the relationship between these religions and also why this region is always tense.

        Israel was the promised land for the Jews. It was promised by God to Abraham. Moses then helped the Jews to come and settle in their land. King David( of the David and Goliath fame) made Jeresulum his capital 1000 years before Christ. His son King Solomon built a temple there. This temple was the most sacred place for the Jews. This is the place where the Holy Ark was kept. This temple was destroyed and rebuilt two times. At this time there is no temple there. There is only a wall that remains of the old temple. This wall is called the “wailing wall” or the
“western wall”. This wall is the most sacred place for the Jews at this time.  They touch it, they pray near it, they kiss it, they cry on it. The Jews
believe that a messiah will come someday and bring a golden age for the Jews.

The Wailing Wall


And the messiah will rebuild the temple. This is a VERY strong belief in Jews. They are waiting for this. Why don’t they just rebuild the temple? They cannot. First reason: there is a mosque there(and we will come to that). second reason: only the messiah can rebuild the temple
and he is still not here. The Jews have lived by this belief  and a love for Jeresulum for thousands of years. Wherever they lived they kept
praying that they could return to Jeresulum. Their prayers contain sentences like ” If I forget Jeresulum may my right hand become useless”!
So the Jews worship Jeresulum. Their love for Jerusalem helped them maintain their identity through throusands of years of oppression and
exile from their native land.

        Jesus Christ was a Jew. But he was no ordinary Jew. He was a preacher. And his followers believed that he is the long awaited messiah.
The jewish high priest Joseph Caiaphas did not believe this. He did not like what Jesus preached and was especially against Jesus claiming himself to be the Son of God. He got Jesus arrested on his visit to Jerusalem and conspired with the Roman Governor of Jerusalem Pointius Pilate to give him a death sentence. So Jesus walked on the roads of Jeresulum carrying the cross. And he was crucified in Jerusalem. I walked on the road where Jesushad walked! It is called the Via Dolorosa( Way of Sorrow).

Via Dolorosa


And I saw the place where Jesus was crucified and also his tomb. And I also saw the stone that was supposed to have covered the cave where Jesus was buried. These places are a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The funny thing is that the keys of the Holy Sepulchre are in the possession of a Muslim family for the last 1000 years. And they plan to keep it that way. Every day morning this family comes and opens the Church and take the keys with them! Also note that since the Jew high priest had a hand in the crucifiction of Christ so the memories of this incident made the Jews unpopular later when Europe adopted Christianity. The Jews in Europe were an oppressed lot and this reached an extreme during the time of Hitler. So the hatred for Jews started from the crucifiction of Christ by the Jewish high priest. I also visited the room where Jesus had his “last supper”! So we see that Jerusalem is very sacred for the Christians also.

Holy Sepulchre


 Jerusalem is very sacred for the Muslims. In fact it is their third most sacred place ( after Mecca and Madina). The Muslims believe in
Moses. They also believe that Jesus was a prophet. But they have an additional belief: that Prophet Mohammed( born 570 AD) was also a
prophet. According to the Muslims, Prophet Mohammed visited Jerusalem in 621 AD and from there he was transported to Heaven where he met Abraham, Moses and Jesus. From them he received the five daily prayers and he came back to earth to spread them. Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed was transported to heaven from the Noble rock. The Muslim Mosque built on this rock has the dimensions that have a mathematical ratio related to a circle drawn around the Noble rock. This Noble rock is sacred for the Jews also because according to them, it is the foundation stone on which the world was created. And it is on this rock that the ancient temples of the Jews stood. So the Muslim holy Mosque in  Jerusalem is on the site of the ancient Jew temples! And it is here that the messiah is supposed to come and build a temple again!

        So as you can see there three religions are so entangled with each other. They all come from a common root but they all have very different
views. And they all consider Jerusalem so sacred that they can die or kill for it. And they have done that several times in the last 2000 years! The Crusades ( or the holy wars) that were fought between 1096 AD and 1250 AD between the Christian world and the Muslim world were over the control of Jerusalem!

        And we can see that this desire to control Jerusalem is still the major cause of so much conflict.

        I am so glad that I was able to experience this 3000 year old history and the centre of world turmoil for the last 2000 years during my
short trip to Israel. It really opened my eyes to so many things that I had no appreciation of earlier. When I was returning to my hotel
in Tel Aviv that evening I wondered why people fight over something that I don’t even seem to believe in. I found it strange that the idea of God,
which in my opinion is a unscientific creation of the human mind can change how people behave and the entire course of history. But then
I thought – would people have still created magnificient monuments, cities and cultures if they did not believe strongly in God? Can a set of
scientific rationalists really believe so strongly in something to die for it. Can rationalists like me really create a culture and a history? I don’t
know. I am still wondering.


  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 
  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 
  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          
  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             



        This VERITAS is about a game, a computer game. But how can a game find a place in a mailing list devoted to knowledge?! But is does, and for a good reason. After playing this game one gets an experience of history.

One’s sense of history improves. And it also increases your factual knowledge. In the rest of this article I will describe the game “Civilization” to you and try to justify its place in the VERITAS mailing list. ( I would like to thank my friend Abhishek Datta for introducimg me to this game which gave me a wonderful realization of how civilizations have evolved.)

      First let me describe the game.

         You are the leader of a civilization that you choose( I “became” Bismark of Germany). The date starts at 3000 BC. The world at this time is unoccupied. You see a map of the world and have two people in your control. Using these people you can create cities in unoccupied lands.

Soon the number of people increases and you can build more cities thus forming a kingdom. You have workers who produce stuff. You can create warriors to help you fight and defend. You have within your control the country’s economy, the people, the resources, the armed units…

everything.And you build them these things yourself. You have an economy and a budget and you can allocate resources to different things: defence scientific research, culture etc. Based on your allocation your country progresses in a particular direction. So if you devote more money to scientific research you would be able to achieve  scientific progress faster( so you might be able to discover Newton’s laws of motion sooner).

If you devote more money to culture you will progress culturally ( you may be able to discover music before the other civilizations).

And all these allocations and decisions on what to produce when are dynamic and you can change them at any stage of the game.

        This game is a turn based game and at each turn the date increases. So you may start at 3000 BC( ancient age) but you will experience the middle age, the industrial age and the modern ages as well.

In my case the game went right up to 2010 AD. And at each age the things you can do are different. In the ancient age you can discover the wheel, in the medieval age you can discover stuff like gunpowder. In the modern age you may discover flight( and thus be able to build an airforce or missiles).   And the nice thing is that the background music and the dress of the people changes as time advances. In the ancient age the music is the tribal “humba-ho” types. In the middle age the music turns to a western classical one etc.

        There are several kinds of relationships possible between civilizations. You could declare war, you can sign trade or diplomatic alliances and you can also form military alliances against a third civilization. You can also spy on other civilizations to gather information and maps!

        And there are several ways to win the game: you can become the most culturally advanced civilization or you can win scientifically( by being the first to do a space conquest) or you could conquer all the other civilizations and attain a military victory.

        If you declare war on a country then the rest of the civilazations observe you and may form military alliances against you and make life difficult for you. Also when you fight a war the morale of the workers and the general population goes down. If the war continues for a long time the people of your country may revolt and production goes down. If production goes down then it becomes difficult to pay for new military troops making it difficult for you to fight.

        And if you fight against a country the rest of the civilizations remember this bad behaviour for a long time( hundreds of years) and you may find it difficult to do trade with them or form any alliances with them. The distrust against you lingers for a long time.

 So this is a very very detailed game and can keep you occupied for several hours(or days). And I was amazed to see how accurately it models the behaviour of civilizations and their leaders and the amount of experimentation that it lets the leader do.

        Below are some things that I realized while playing this game.

All these things may seem obvious but there is a difference between knowing something and realizing it. The game make you realize these things by making you experience history.

1) I had always wondered why Napoleon had not fought and conquered more lands….Why did he have such a long gap between his wars?! And the reason is balance. It takes a large amount of money and resources to form and maintain an army. And in a war this cost increases manifold because defeated units have to be replaced and conquered territories have to be protected with a good number of units. And all this costs a lot of money and when a war happens the production goes down and the money in the treasury decreases. So a war becomes a self-limiting exercise… even the richest country cannot afford a long non-stop war. Thank God for the unbearable cost of war that we have peace.

2) As a country gets bigger it gets very difficult to manage it properly. You tend to rely on people to do what is expected of them and not bother about the nitty-gritties.  But then people are people… there is corruption. ANd yes in the game there is corruption that people in cities indulge in making the economy look so bad. And managing corruption is a problem… it makes you take time off the main aim of yours.

3) It is very difficult to catch up with an advanced country( or civilization). A country is like a huge ship that takes a long time to turn around. If a country achieves someting before another then it takes a long time for the other to catch up. And the difference between an advanced civilization and a less advanced civilization tends to increase with time.

4) It is easier to “dominate” the world culturally or scientifically than  through a military conquest. If other states do not form alliances  then world domination by an armed conflict is possible. However if  communication has evolved and other states are able to form diplomatic  and military alliances with each other then it is better to not think  about conquering the world and you should invest in culture or Science.

5) The leader or head of the state does not bother about the individual or his happiness. When I played the game my only focus was the domination of my state over others militarily. The individual people meant nothing. “Give up your self for the state” was my guiding principle when I pushed my troops into one battle after another. I wanted to impose my ambitions on the troops in the disguise of nationalism.

This game will appeal to anyone who has a love for history. You must play it once to get a sense of how civilizations are created and how difficult it is to manage them properly.

                       “Forward, the Light Brigade!”

                        Was there a man dismay’d?

                        Not tho’ the soldier knew

                        Someone had blunder’d:

                        Their’s not to make reply,

                        Their’s not to reason why,

                        Their’s but to do and die:

                        Into the valley of Death

                        Rode the six hundred.


                                (Tennyson- charge of the light brigade)







  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             


Celebrations in 2005



  Do you know that UNO has declared 2005 as the “World Year of Physics”?

This is to mark the 100th anniversary of a set of revolutions that shook the foundations of Physics and led to a complete change in man’s understanding of nature. Physics after 1905 would never be the same again.

It would be deeper, stranger and so much more beautiful. In 2005 the world will celebrate the revolution that took place in a small patent office in Switzerland in 1905. The revolution that was brought about by a clerk. The clerk who everyone later would recognize as a giant of intellect. The towering figure of Science-Albert Einstein. In today’s VERITAS we will recall that revolutionary year.

   In 1905 Einstein was a 26 year old patent office clerk in  Switzerland. He had barely passed his exams a few years back. In 1901 UNiversity of Zurich had rejected his doctoral thesis. He had difficulties finding a job as a Physics teacher. So he had joined the patent office. Einstein studied Physics in his spare time that he got from his office work and his family( Einstein was married and had a son at that time). He had access to very little Physics literature( the patent office library was strong in engineering but weak in Physics). Einstein wrote 4 papers that year. Any one of these could have ensured his name in textbooks. But they went much further. They revolutionized man’s view of nature. Only once before in human history had one year brought such a huge revolution in human thought: In 1666 Newton was confined to his country home to escape the plague. And he produced the basis of calculus, law of gravity and the theory of colours. 1666 was Newton’s “annus mirablis”( year of miracle). 1905 was Einstein’s “annus mirablis”.

      Lets take a look at the four papers of 1905:

1) “On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning Production and Transformation of Light”: In this paper Einstein solved the photoelectric effect. He applied Plank’s quanta to light. He showed that if we assume that light is quantized (consists of discrete bundles) then we can understand how light can bump off electrons to produce current. This idea would later pave the way to Quantum Mechanics and the dance of probabilities that Einstein himself hated. This paper would win him the Nobel Prize in 1922.

2) “On the motion of small particles suspended in liquids at rest…”: In this paper Einstein explained Brownian Motion( how particles suspended in a liquid randomly bump into each other). This was an important contribution to statistical Physics.

3) “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”: This is the special theory of relativity paper. This was the greatest of the four that Einstein wrote that year. What can I say about this? I cannot explain it in 2-3 lines. I can only say that when I first read about relativity when I was a school kid it seemed to be the most romantic subject. Constancy of light, the fact that electricity and magnetism are one, simultaniety, moving frames of reference, twin paradox, the oneness of space and time: it is soooooo beautiful. Anyone who wants to live life fully cannot be ignorant of this theory.

4) “A new determination of molecular dimensions” : This measured the speed of diffusion. We must remember that atoms were still a controversial subject in those days. Einstein tried to show that atoms of a definite size exist.

       So the two pillars of modern Physics: Quantum Mechanics and Relativity were born(in a sense) in 1905. Relativity was expanded in 1915 to form a new theory of gravity( The General Theory of Relativity). Quantum machanics took its own road : Quantum Field Theory, Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Chromodynamics.

      But everything that is beautiful has a tragic component as well. The beautiful march of Physics from 1905 onward has a tragedy associated with it as well. The two theories born that year dont meet each other: Quantum Mechanics and Relativity( actually General Relativity) are inconsistent with each other. Perhaps a new revolution is needed to unite them.

        In 2005 the world will celebrate and remember that year of revolution.

        “To Einstein, hair and violin

         we give our final nod.

        Though understood by only two people:

        Himself and sometimes God”




  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             




      Friends, in today’s VERITAS we will recall the story of one of the greatest Chemists- Antoine Lavoisier. Lavoisier is also known as the father of chemistry. We will remember his life, his works and his tragic death.

      Lavoisier was born rich. He was the son of a rich and famous lawer. He was born in Paris, 26th Aug 1743. His father died when he was just five years old. Young Lavoisier was cared for by his aunt who gave him a very strong education. He studied chemistry, biology, astronomy, mathematics and law in college which he attended from 1754 to 1761. In 1771 he married 13 year old Marie-Annie. His first paper in Chemistry appeared in 1764. In 1767 he worked on a geological survey of Alsace-Lorraine.

      When he was 25 Lavoisier was elected to the French Academy of Sciences. Here he was burdened with responsibilities. He had to prepare scientific reports on several different fields: respiration in plants, temperature and nature of volcanic lava, stink in Paris sewers, hygene in hospitals etc etc.

      But Lavoisier never forgot that his real interest was in Chemistry.

      The chemists of that day believed that every substance had something which they called phlogiston. This substance phlogiston was released whenever something burnt. Lavoisier was dissatisfied by this theory. He read the works of Priestley and Cavendish and came up with a new theory of burning.

According to this theory burning is possibe by taking something from the air around the burning substance. So burning was not a release of phlogiston but an intake of something from air around the substance. Lavoisier showed that a burning metal increases in weight and the air around it decreases in weight.

Lavoisier explained that the decrease in weight of the air equals the increase in weight of the metal. So in one master stroke Lavoisier not only explained combustion but also proposed the law of conservation of matter! He named the substance which was used in combustion Oxygen.

      Having stated the law of conservation of matter he applied it to all chamical reactions. All chemical reactions must balance!!

This created a revolution in chemmistry. All chemical reactions were weighed before and after the event and missing masses /chemicals were found.

      Lavoisier also explained the formation of acids and salts.

He developed gas analysis and calorimetry. He studied organic compounds and created a system of chemical nomenclature.

      He wrote the Elementary Treatise of Chemistry. This is considered as the equivalent of Newton’s Principia Mathematica for Chemistry. For the first time in history Chemistry was treated as a science. facts were put before imagination. Known elements were differentiated from compounds. Lavoisier listed

33 elements from which compounds could be made. That was the first time that elements were recognized. Before this the “elements” that chemists recognized were Air, Water, Earth and Fire!!!!

      His wife was his companion in his research. She translated his works into english and maintained records.

      Lavoisier’s life outside science was equally colorful.

He was one of the richest and most respected people in the french society. He had a huge number of friends from different professions. Lavoisier became an institution of learning.

      But to maintain his lifestyle and perform costly experiments he needed money. To achieve this objective he became a fermier-general( tax collector). His income increased manifold. He headed several public commissions.

      But he always made sure that he spent 6 hours a day in his lab: 6 tp 9 in the morning and 7 to 10 at night.

      But then came his downfall during the french revolution.

In 1794 27 fermier-generals were impriosoned. The revolutionaries hated the old system and its officials. The judge said ” The Republic has no need of scientists”. Lavoisier and his former colleagues were given the death sentence.

      According to a story Lavoisier performed his last experiment in his death. He wanted someone to record how long the head stays alive after a beheading. So he told the “student” that he would keep blinking after his beheading and the student should record the time. Lavoisier wa beheaded on 8th May 1794. He kept blinking for about 15 seconds after his head was cut off. A scientist in life and a scientist in death.

      The mathematician Lagrange lamented the beheading by saying “It took only an instant to cut off that head, but France may not produce another like it in a century”



  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                              


The Mad Quest For Words


Friends, today’s VERITAS is inspired by a program that I saw on BBC last saturday. It was a beautiful and a very moving program.

This is the story of two people’s quest for words. This is the story of passion and madness. It is the story of man’s desire to achieve greatness by associating himself with a great mission.

This is the story of the Oxford English Dictionary!

      When Shakespeare wrote his plays there was no english dictionary. Milton, Chaucer and several literary greats worked without a dictionary. The first decent word list was compiled by Samuel Johnson in 1755 and had 40,000 words. This took him 9 years to compile. But this did not represent even a small fraction of the words that were there in the english language.

      In 1870s the idea of a new complete dictionary was proposed by the Philological Society of London. The aim was to “record every word, every nuance, every shading of meaning and spelling and pronunciation, every twist of etymology, and illustrative citations from English authors for every word”. So in essence the aim was to write a biography of every english word. Work began in late 1870s. The estimate was that it would take 10 years to complete. Five years after the work began the dictionary had only reached the word “ant”!

      The first serious editor of the dictionary was James Murray. He was a school teacher with an immense curiosity and love for the english language. Now remember that there was no source from where he could pick up the words and classify them. The source were all the books ever written and all words ever spoken around the world. So he called for help. English lovers around the world were asked to send entries for words along with quotations from books illustrating the use of these words. Murray got a huge response. Thousands of people around the world started sending quotations. Murray’s home started filling with sheets of paper. There were words all around him! Now Murray had another problem: sorting these pages. Murray employed several people to help him sort, organize and write these contributions. Even his family worked to help the dictionary. All his eleven children worked as sorters after their school hours. The standard rate for children was : a penny an hour!

      The most prolific contributor to the dictionary was a man named Dr William Chestor Minor. He contributed hundreds of quotations a week. Murray was quite impressed with Minor’s contributions.

Minor’s letters were eagerly awaited by Murray and his team. The return address in the letters was: ” Broadmoor,Crowthorne”. Murray and his team wondered why Dr Minor never came to visit them. It was only 40 miles from Crowthorne to Oxford. Murray thought that Dr Minor was a doctor in a hospital  in Crowthorne. It was only later that he got to know that Dr Minor was actually a convict in a mental asylum. The greatest contributor to the dictionany was a madman convicted for murder!!!!

      Dr Minor was a surgeon who served in the American Civil war.

But during the war he went mad and was relieved from the army. While on a trip to England he killed an innocent man in a delusional belief that the man wanted to attack him. He was tried and was found mad. He was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in the Broadmoor Asylum. SInce Minor was an educated and a rich man he was allowed a 2 room private cell. He could buy and keep all books he wanted. Soon he amassed hundreds of volumes. When in 1880 he came across Murray’s leaflet requesting contributions to the dictionary he realized that he had found intellectual work that he could do from his cell. This work became the mission of his life.

      Murray and Minor first met in 1891 in Minor’s cell.

The became friends. After that Murray would visit Minor frequently.

      Because of the immense size of the Oxford English Dictionary it was published in small parts called fascicles. A-B was released in 1884. The complete dictionary was published in 1928. Neither Murray nor Minor lived to see their final work. The first edition of the dictionary was 10 volumes big and had 15,490 pages. The whole effort took nearly 70 years to complete. There were 414,825 entries in the dictionary. 2000 contributors had sent in 5 million quotations.

      The Oxford English Dictionary is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of english literature. It was the work of people who loved the english language.

      This great work and its contributors reminds me of the following quotes:

      “if a man does not discover something he is willing to die for , he isnt fit to live”  – Martin Luther King


      ishq la-mehdood jab tak rehnuma hota nahin

      zindagi se zindagi ka haq ada hota nahin

( If a living being is not guided by an unbounded love

  he cannot fulfil his promise to life )  – Jigar Moradabadi







  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                  

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             



Smallpox Eradication


      Friends, Smallpox is the only major disease that has ever been eradicated. This disease has caused a huge amount of pain, disfigurement and death throughout human history.

In a typical year like 1967 small pox infected 10 to 15 million cases worldwide and killed 2 million of these. An estimated 300 million people died of small pox in the 20th century alone. In 1796 Jenner invented the small pox vaccine.

      However having a vaccine is a matter of science. And eradication of a disease is a matter of management and politics. The rich countries got people vaccinated but the disease was still widespread and caused 300 million deaths in 20th century. SOmething had to be done!

      In 1959 the World Health Organization passed a resolution to kill this disease. In 1967 the WHO launched the Intensified Small Pox eradication programme. At that time the strategy was to vaccinate everyone in the world- mass vaccination. But just imagine how difficult it is to ensure that 100% of the polulation is vaccinated.

      In 1966 an outbreak in Nigeria showed a better strategy.

In Nigeria 90% of the polulation was already vaccinated. But there was an outbreak of smallpox in a religious group who had resisted vaccination. The availibility of the vaccine was delayed to the local medical team forcing them to invent a new strategy. The local medical team isolated new cases and went looking for any new patient. They vaccinated people who were close to the existing cases and isolated these cases. So this strategy of surveillance and containment broke the small pox transmission chain even though less than 50% of the polulation needed to be vaccinated.

      This strategy of containment and surveillance was adopted by WHO for its worldwide campaign. Health teams moved across the world finding new cases and isolating them and vaccinating their contacts. Prize money was given to anyone who reported a small pox case.

      Another contributor to the success of this effort was the high volume production of vaccines. Before 1959 liquid small pox vaccine was used. It had to be used within 48 hours. This resulted in shortage of vaccine and contamination. A new freeze dried vaccine which had the stability for mass vaccination was invented and this was used in the campaign. Another invention – the bifurcated needle was needed for easily presenting single doses of the vaccine.

      However the greatest contribution to the campaign was by the local field workers. In each area the field workers invented techniques that could help them locate new cases. WHO only gave guidelines to the workers on how to go about their task. The workers had full freedom to create or modify strategies to suite the local population.

      In India Operation Smallpox Zero was launched in 1975. Village to Village searches were replaced by house to house searches. There was no chance taken. Even a case of simple rash where the chances of it being smallpox were low were treated as smallpox and the whole family was vaccinated. All villages within 10 mile radius of an infected case were searched. All people living within one mile radius of an infected case were vaccinated.  The number of infected villages fell by 40 % each month.

      Many people at WHO were unhappy with the way things were going.

They felt that the processes were not being followed. How could the local medical staff change the processes???!!! For example: obtaining money to fund vaccines, people and vehicles was a long affair requiring valuminous paperwork. Often this paperwork was not done by local staff and money flowed on “faith”. The local staff did not care about processes. There was only one aim: to eradicate smallpox!

      In 1977 the last case of smallpox was reported in SOmalia.

Small pox was completely defeated! The WHO director described this as “a triumph of management and not of medicine”.

But are we safe from this disease? This disease does not exist in people but the germs that cause this disease have been stored by several countries. The UN has requested destruction of all these germ samples. But countries like US, UK and Russia continue to keep huge stores of small pox germs. And the danger is that most of the children born after 1980 have not been vaccinated against small pox.

We have never been so vulnerable to this disease.


      Can another disease be wiped out like this? Yes! Polio is on its way out, just a matter of a few years. Polio and smallpox share a common feature- they do not have any animal reservoir. So diseases that are spread by animals or infect animals would be very difficult to eradicate. But who knows!



  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;